Tuesday, March 01, 2016

South Sudan Government Says Not Responsible for Delay in Transporting SPLM-IO forces to Juba
March 1, 2016 (JUBA) – As transporting opposition forces to the South Sudanese capital, Juba, has been delayed beyond 1 March’s tentative schedule, President Salva Kiir’s government has distanced itself from the causes for the delay. Government officials said the process is a responsibility of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), a body overseeing the implementation of the August peace agreement signed in August last year by warring parties in the country.

South Sudanese government said Tuesday it is not responsible for delay in transportation of the 1,370 forces of the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO), blaming the delay on JMEC and partners.

Information and broadcasting minister, Michael Makuei Lueth, told reporters on Tuesday that the government, like any other institutions, was expecting the advance force of the armed opposition to arrive Juba on the 1 March as was previously communicated by JMEC, but added that the process got delayed for issues the government was still waiting for explanation.

“The government has nothing to do with the delay of the forces of the SPLM-IO. According to the plan of JMEC, the IO forces were supposed to be in Juba today [Tuesday]. As the government, we approved the plan and prepared for their reception. A cantonment site has been selected and designated for them. Logistical arrangements were also made for transport from the airport on arrival to the cantonment site,” Lueth further narrated.

A leading official of the SPLM-IO in Juba separately attributed the cause for the delay to technical issues and bilateral matters between the government of Ethiopia and JMEC as their troops would have to cross to the Ethiopian border town of Gambella with their equipment and weapons which requires approval of the government of Ethiopia before troops can leave their headquarters in Pagak.

“This is a military issue and I would not wish to talk about it in the media but what I know is that our troops are ready to come from three locations. One location is Bentiu, Owaci and our headquarters in Pagak. So far we have not had any problem from the two places: Bentiu and Owaci. They are ready to come here,” he told Sudan Tribune.

“The only place where we have an issue is Pagak, because our troops have to go to Gambella and for them to go to Gambella which is another country, needs the approval by the Ethiopian government because they are going to use their military equipment and weapons. So far arrangements are being made. JMEC is in discussion with the Ethiopian authorities and our leadership. But I think there will be no problem. They will be allowed to come through Gambella. What is required is the completion of formal discussions and processes,” the official explained.

Meanwhile, Colonel William Gatjiath Deng, a military spokesman for the SPLA-IO, in a Tuesday statement said the sites for settling the troops in the South Sudanese capital, Juba, and their accommodation have not been worked out yet by the government.

“SPLA/IO forces would not be in Juba on Tuesday as expected [because] the peace partners are still on the plan to transport the largest contingents of SPLA/IO forces to Juba but this would not happen as planned,” he said in statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Monday.

“Provision of basic life support is a vital issue where the food, water and medical care for the army is needed to be arranged first before their arrival as well as the limitation of flights at Juba international airport,” he added.

He also further explained that the opposition forces also needed clearance from the Ethiopian government to approve transit of light weapons from Gambella to Juba by air.

“For the SPLA/IO forces to move in, it may take a week from now for all those arrangements to be put in place,” he said.

Other soldiers and police, he added, will travel from their locations to be picked up by planes and transported to Juba.


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